Disclaimer: I did not see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey because I recently read the book and didn't feel like watching it. So don't expect any comparisons between the two because I have none to make.
So, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is still traveling with Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) and a baker's dozen of dwarves to fight dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) for stealing all their loot. The film begins with a flashback that reveals Thorin (Richard Armitage) had a price on his head for absolutely no reason, but once that arbitrary scene is done with some action gets going and mostly doesn't let up for the completely obscene 161 minute running time. The gang are attacked by orcs, a skin-changer, crazy spiders (who speak to each other; weird) and are captured by elves led by Legolas, who's looking distractingly bloated in the face. It all zips along nicely until the stand-out moment of the film arrives: a breathtakingly choreographed sequence involving the dwarves escaping in barrels and elves shooting the shit out of some orcs. Legolas jumps from barrel to barrel as they go downstream while firing arrows and even the redundant dwarves get some neat moves that brings to mind the one shot chase scene in Tintin, only better.
But once you get your breath back it slows down again considerably thanks to one too many sub-plots that just don't need to be there. True, I enjoyed Evangeline Lilly's superior ginger weave but no matter how good her performance is and how badass her she-elf is, I can't escape the fact she's only there to fall in love and have someone fall in love with her. Peter Jackson can inject as much action as he likes but it's still too damn long and clearly doesn't need to be. By the end you just want it to hurry up and finish and I still can't feel my arse even though I watched it 3 days ago.
Still, at least we get to see Smaug in this one and his entrance is appropriately tense and exciting. I was very skeptical when I saw Cumberbatch messing about in a catsuit with balls on it but it really works and his vocals are the lovechild of Darth Vader and Ursula, the Sea Witch when she gets all powerful and shit.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is as close to a new Lord of the Rings film as we're going to get and is a great adventure when it finally gets going, but the shameless stretching of a relatively small book makes it feel like more of a chore than a joy.